Grading the Top 4 on American Idol
I’m hoping Mariah Carey hasn’t spent much time reading about American Idol today.
If she has, we’re in for some of the most long-winded, convoluted critiques in the history of TV reality competitions.
Remember what happened the last time she felt reprimanded?
It took her more than 300 words to tell Lazaro Arbos he missed a key change, something that shouldn’t happen to a Top 6 contestant on Idol.
Well, she’ll feel the need to vindicate her judging ability if she read today’s report, courtesy of E!, that Idol considered replacing her with Jennifer Lopez mid-season to boost ratings.
The thought was nixed, the story says, after Mariah’s camp threatened litigation.
I put little credence in this … let’s call it “rumor.”
For starters, under what scenario would Idol think Mariah would simply walk quietly away and let herself be replaced?
For finishers, what fantasy world are Idol execs living in if they thought the return of Jennifer Lopez would significantly boost Idol’s ratings?
The woman spent two years on the show and should give 100 percent of her salary back. Idol gave J-Lo a wonderful platform to promote herself, pulled her career out of the crapper and got pitifully little in return because she judged practically nothing.
If the report is true — it ranks right up there on the idiocy scale with Idol entering Top 4 week with too few contestants to get through the rest of the season.
But let’s switch the focus to where it belongs tonight: On the Top 4. Or, as I prefer to call them, three contenders and one pretender.
Songs of Their Choice
1. Amber Holcomb: She’s tackling Celine Dion and “Power of Love.” Hey listen to Amber. Brilliant a cappella opening. That’s the best she’s sounded all season. I still wish she were more versatile; ballads are far and away her forte. And this performance got a little less special as it went along. But I still think it was one of Amber’s best so far in the competition. Really nice way to start the night. Keith calls the song a great match for Amber’s voice. Nicki calls her “a big sexy glass of milk.” Randy thinks she looks more like a “black and white cookie” and makes her do a little spin for the crowd. He says she’s the contestant who’s made the most progress. Now Mariah starts rambling. Grade: B+
2. Candice Glover: She’s going to sing Drake’s “Find Your Love.” Another ballad, of course. Very strong start for Candice, too. Not so sure about this song selection though. I still think Candice is going to have to pull off more “Straight Up” type moments to pull out the Idol crown. Even though, vocally, she’s superior to the rest of the Top 4, especially the singer who proceeded her to the stage. This is a really, really good vocal, filled with all sorts of little Candice flourishes, but nothing quite so surprising as Amber’s a cappella opening. Nicki expresses concern that Candice might be construed as “old-fashioned.” Randy is criticizing Candice for sounding like she’s in church all the time. Mariah disagrees, saying Candice took her to “a place I needed to go.” Keith also loved what Candice did with the song. Grade: B+
3. Kree Harrison: Kree’s going to sing “Hurts So Bad.” I was sorta hoping she’d really, really rock out tonight. Instead, we got a song from 1965. But at least she’s picked something soulful. And we’re going to get another splendid vocal, in which Kree graces us with several big notes and shows off that wonderful voice. I just wish she’d perform with a little more reckless abandon. I mean, I keep thinking of Haley Reinhart. She’d be stalking all over the stage like a wild woman. In other words, that wasn’t quite the knockout performance I expected from Kree after she landed in the bottom two last week. Keith said Kree really needed to cut loose on the song and didn’t. In other words, he nailed that critique. Nicki is more blunt. She says that was not a Top 4 worthy performance. Grade: B-
4. Angie Miller: She’ll return to singing Jessie J. Again. The song is “Who You Are.” Well, at least it’s something current. And Angie follows Nicki’s advice and returns to her piano. I do not know this song. And it matters not because Angie is singing the heck out of it. Angie can’t match Candice’s vocal firepower, but she is hands down the best performer among the Top 4. I mean, talk about pouring heart and soul into a performance. That’s what was missing from Kree. Angie gets a standing ovation from three of the judges. And Mariah says she would have stood up too if her train hadn’t been caught under her chair. Nicki says no one in the competition compares to her when she’s at the piano. Nicki calls it a “smart” and “exceptional” performance. Randy calls it “10 out of 10 out of 10.” Grade: A
5. Amber Holcomb and Kree Harrison: They team up to sing an Adele song. Amber looks fabulous as usual. But she’s giving us mumble mouth in the early part of the song. Kree sounds better on this song. Not sure Idol did either girl any favor serving up an Adele song. Once again, I keep wishing they’d cut loose just a little more. Amber, of course, gets high praise. For how she stands, for crying out loud. Kree gets criticism. Again. Grade: C+
6. Candice Glover and Angie Miller: They’ll sing Rihanna’s “Stay.” Candice starts out that song brilliantly. She’s turning in another master class in singing, showing us once again that she’s the best singer on the show this season. Angie’s pouring herself into the song with her normal passion, even if she can’t quite match Candice’s vocal firepower. I think we just saw our finalists. Grade: B
7. Amber Holcomb: She’s singing “MacArthur Park.” A hit for Donna Summer. Who wasn’t exactly a one-hit wonder. Oh, gee, Amber is going a little bit upbeat. Not a very good start. Then she finds her groove. Right before the song kicks into high gear, then the vocal starts to fall apart. Can’t wait to hear the critiques on this one, because she’s delivering a very average vocal. In fact, it got downright rough toward the end. Here comes the crap from the judges. Keith says she’s “dominating tonight.” Which is crap. Nicki calls her a blooming flower and calls her by the wrong name. Randy proclaims she’s in it to win it. That was not a winning performance. Mariah compliments her “inner glow.” Come on, Idol voters, time for an Amber backlash. Vote for anyone else. I plan to tonight. And I almost never vote. Grade: C
8. Candice Glover: She’ll treat us to another ballad, “Emotion.” Wow, I could have done without the background singers. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a perfectly wonderful vocal. And another pretty sleepy performance. Not the kind of moment Candice needs to assure a spot in the finals. Until the big ending, that song really didn’t even offer Candice much of a chance to show off her normal vocal frills. Nicki says she was grooving with it. Keith nails this critique too. He wonders if there aren’t any one-hit wonder songs from the last decade. He calls that performance “breezy, lovely nice” and a chance for a moment blown. I totally agree. Grade: B-
9. Kree Harrison: She will sing “Whiter Shade of Pale.” If Kree doesn’t make the final three, it will be because she bored us to death with an endless stream of ballads. And, no, Keith, I guess three of four on this cast would prefer to sing classics from decades ago. This still will fall way short of the reckless abandon I want to see from Kree. Again, she sounds really good. Again, it’s a performance that just sort of lies there. Keith nails yet another critique, calling it a middle-ground song. Not intimate enough to set Kree apart. Not reckless enough to set Kree apart. Nicki says she loved the performance, but said she doesn’t think it will keep her out of the bottom two. Grade: B
10. Angie Miller: She will sing “Cry Me a River.” Angie, Angie, Angie. I was hoping you’d rescue us from ballad hell. Nope. Guess not. Instead, we get a 1950s ballad. What we’re left with is another very good vocal. But not the moment I was hoping for to close the show. But the judges love Angie. Perhaps almost as much as Amber. Nicki proclaims of Angie: “Tonight was your night.” Randy calls it the “best of the night” and says she wins the night. Actually, I preferred Angie’s first round song, though that vocal was splendid and probably the best of the second round. Grade: B+